What Exactly Is Tinkering?While Oxford dictionary defines tinkering as an attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect, I don’t think of children's tinkering in the same negative way. I like a definition from my daughter’s favorite museum, The Exploratorium, a lot better – tinkering is thinking with your hands and learning through doing. It’s slowing down and getting curious about the mechanics and mysteries of the everyday stuff around you. When children tinker with things, they discover new uses for uncommon objects, think out of the box and grow as learners and problem solvers. Today I am going to share 5 ways to encourage tinkering for kids from After School Hosts and After School Link Up participants.
1. Set Up a Tinkering Station
Even very young kids can benefit from a “tinkering station” inviting them to combine different objects together. Anne from Left Brain Craft Brain was a guest on A Mom With a Lesson Plan last week and shared her tips on setting up a tinkering station for preschoolers. Katydid and Kid has a great post on a tinkering kit for older kids.
2. Use Toys in an Uncommon WayIt’s great when parents join the play to show kids how to extend their toys and combine them in new ways. Doodles and Jots has a great example of “hacking” TinkerToys and combining them with some empty cardboard boxes to make a Tinker Truck.
3. Introduce Your Kids to Junk Modeling
Junk modeling is tinkering with recyclable materials. In our house it usually involves a lot of scotch tape or a glue gun and the results are interesting, but not photo-friendly :) In The Playroom shares a more artsy junk model of a pretty butterfly family. She also has a great round up of 10+ Junk Modeling Crafts.
4. Create Engineering Challenges
My daughter loves engineering challenges, and I am happy that this year she already had one in school where kids were asked to work in teams and create vessels out of foam craft sticks and paper clips. Then the teams competed to see which vessel can hold most counting bears without sinking. I hope she will have more of these challenges in school this year, and we also had some at home last school year when we made Lego egg racers and built boats. I also really love the way my co-host Relentlessly Fun Deceptively Educational designed this paper building challenge for her son.
5. Give Your Kids Time to Tinker
I wrote about it before – as any true creative undertaking, tinkering requires time. This fall my daughter takes a fair share (somewhat more than normal for us) of afterschool activities of all kinds (choir, gymnastics, Mad Science, musical production in school), but this makes it even more imperative for us to keep our weekends free, so she can enjoy unstructured time. That’s when she actually play with her toys, and builds intricate play worlds including this Duplo playground.
More on How to Encourage Future Engineers12 Amazing Engineering Projects for Kids – my most popular post this year :)
Doorknob Science – I love how my co-host MaryAnne from Mama Smiles: Joyful Parenting and her husband show their kids how things work.
3 Parenting Tips for Raising Engineers from my other co-host Amanda at The Educators’ Spin on It.
Follow my Pinterest board For Future Engineers.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board For future engineers on Pinterest.
2014 After School Link Up Hosts
- The Educators' Spin On It
- Planet Smarty Pants
- Boy Mama Teacher Mama
- Mama Smiles
- Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
- The Measured Mom
- This Reading Mama